The Silken Tent

by Robert Frost

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Last Updated on August 2, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 274

This 1939 sonnet by American poet Robert Frost seems to describe a particular woman—the “She” of the first line—whom the speaker compares to a “silken tent” at noon in the summer sunshine. The speaker uses an extended simile, a comparison of two unlike things that uses the word like or as, in this description.

The morning dew has dried on top of the tent due to the summer breeze, and the ropes which tie the tent to the ground have slackened, so the entire tent sways and moves with the wind. It has a central pole of cedar wood which points straight up into the sky and toward the sun at noon, and the speaker tells us that this pole symbolizes the soul’s “sureness,” or its steadfastness.

The pole is held in place by many beautiful silk ties “of love and thought / to every thing on earth.” It does not seem to depend too much on any one of them; none of them are too tight, and so the tent is bound rather loosely. Perhaps these silk ties represent the woman’s relationships and ideas, her goals, or her responsibilities. This slack in the ropes allows the tent to sway and move in the breeze.

When the summer breezes blow a little more strongly and one of these ties becomes more taut, only then does the tent’s “slightest bondage” become more obvious. So, only when the woman is pulled and tugged by some “capricious” wind outside of herself does she really notice the ties that help her to maintain her figurative shape, that help hold her to the space she occupies.

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